What were Obama's favorite childhood books?(Read article summary)
On a recent visit to a Washington library, Obama told students that he doesn't have much time for 'fun' reading these days. But he also eagerly shared the titles that he enjoyed as a boy.
President Obama has a well-established reputation as a bookworm. He has repeatedly taken his daughters to some of Washington D.C.'s best-known independent bookstores, his vacation reads are well publicized, and his own books have been praised by literary lions like Toni Morrison and Philip Roth.
And it turns out that America's bookworm-in-chief has been a reader since he was a boy.
"When I was young, I used to love libraries, love reading," President Obama said Thursday during a "field trip" to Anacostia Library in Washington, D.C. "I still love reading. These days, I don’t get to read for fun as much as I do for my work.”
Mr. Obama also urged the students in the audience to get off their phones and electronic devices and pick up a book.
“You’re texting all day and you’re looking at Vines and Instagrams and you’re looking at, like, Grumpy Cat, ” Obama said. “You can have the nicest computer in the world, but if you’re lazy and sitting around just playing video games and not really interested in it, well you’re probably not going to be a great student.”
Obama then revealed his list of favorite childhood books, possibly setting off a mad rush in bookstores and libraries - and of course, sending the blogosphere into a tailspin analyzing the deeper meaning behind his picks.
Obama's favorite childhood books include:
The books of Dr. Seuss
Obama said he was and still is a "big Dr. Seuss fan," which the Washington Post's Hunter Schwarz called a bold progressive pick.
"The Hardy Boys" series
"I was into adventure stories," Obama said. Surrounded by Secret Service and forced to live in a largely communication-free bubble in the White House, we imagine he's nostalgic for those carefree childhood days of adventure described in "The Hardy Boys."
"The Great Gatsby"
Sure, it's a great American classic, but it's also "widely viewed as an indictment of the American dream, the excess of wealth and capitalism," writes the Post's Schwarz. Is Obama making a point here about the western consumer-capitalistic society? About Americans' lavish lifestyles? About the housing boom and bust? The students at Anacostia library never asked, and we may never know.
"The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings"
"Clearly, this proves Obama lives in a fantasy world," we imagine some on the political right thinking. Others may interpret it as further evidence that Obama is a literary nerd.
The "Harry Potter" series
Obama said he read the mega-hit Harry Potter series to Malia from when she was 5 to when she was about 12 or 13. It turns out even the President of the United States is under Harry's spell.
Another classic children's book that takes Obama to a far place - Hawaii, maybe? - when he's stuck at the Oval Office, we presume. But the Post's Schwarz thinks Obama should reconsider.
"Pirate books aren't advisable for politicians to say they like, even the timeless classic "Treasure Island," he writes. "Pirates are far too morally ambiguous."
"Of Mice and Men"
Talk about making a statement. "Of Mice and Men," by celebrated writer John Steinbeck, is one of the most banned and challenged books in American libraries, according the American Library Association's annual list of most challenged books.
In other words, Obama isn't afraid of making a statement about freedom of speech.